In a dystopian future where the general population is plugged into the motherboard of conformity, a group of rebellious bohemians fight to reinstate free thought and the power of rock n’ roll, baby. Someone thought it would be a great idea to bring Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You, a musical based on the music Queen, back to the Sydney stage.
The script preaches the revolutionary gospel of rock and criticises the cookie cutter culture, fashion and *gasp* modern electronic music of this futuristic society. However, there’s an overwhelming sense of vanilla-ness that doesn’t help that undercurrent of rock rebellion take hold.
The paramount of blah lays with the ‘hero’ of the piece, Galileo, a “reincarnation of Freddie Mercury”. While emulating Freddie’s immaculate voice is a mammoth task for anyone, leading man Gareth Keegan was out-sung by his cast mates again and again. His Mickey Mouse-esque American accent was never explained or necessary. Female lead Scaramouche, portrayed by Erin Clare, often provided the pipes and the charisma to carry them both.
The greater chemistry was really between front-running bohemian couple Brit (Thern Reynolds) and Oz (Jaz Flowers). The rag tag gang of bohemians were rather endearing, but their cut-and-paste ‘rock star’ names were a little on the nose.
The villain of the piece, the Killer Queen (Casey Donovan), may have been the most rock n’ roll out of all of them. Or it may have just been the way Donovan relished her turn as a ‘badie’, injecting the most character into her high notes and comedic quips.
The raunch and sexuality expressed amongst the bohemian rebels and the Killer Queen herself was all in good fun, and while there was some deviation away from heteronormativity suggested in the Queen’s exploits, it would have been a nice touch to see some man-on-man cuddling amongst the canoodling couples in the rebel haunt.
Updates to the script tried to keep things ‘with it’, but the pop music references just made it feel all the more like a bad joke. While much of the staging and stadium concert quality lighting was up to scratch, the bizarre animations flashing across the on-set screens would have looked cringey and out dated even the first time WWRY was staged.
By the end of Act Two everyone was on board, clapping and stamping along as Queen’s three biggest hits were doled out in quick succession. Throughout the entire show, some segways were smoother than others when it came to injecting the next song from Queen’s back catalogue, but by the time it came to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, they weren’t even trying to keep the story cohesive.
Much like WWRY’s original West End production in 2002, this turn will probably be cringed at by critics and lapped up by paying audiences. WWRY echoes the sanitised, commercially compliant take on rock n’ roll typified in the reanimation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show that took to the Lyric Theatre stage around about this time last year.
The costumes are fun and some enigmatic performances and great musical numbers strengthened by a live rock orchestra help rescue WWRY – but lines about supporting independent thought and live music fall all the more flat when they’re echoing out into the hallowed halls of The Star Casino… (AM)
May 6–Jun 26, various show times. Sydney Lyric Theatre at The Star, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont. $69.90-$139.90+bf. Tickets & info: wewillrockyou.com.au or ticketmaster.com.au